The excitement over weed beer, explained
Consuming cannabis has massively expanded over the last two years, with new products emerging onto the market every week. And cannabis-infused beverages have made a big impact. Within the cannon of infused beverages, beer specifically is on the rise, with beer drinkers identified as a ripe crossover audience.
A familiarity with herbaceous flavors from hops, an overall inclusive chill vibe, and low-dose servings contribute to the naturally shared audience between beers and cannabis. Since the change in legislation at the top of 2018, the cannabis-infused beer world has been growing healthily, with high hopes for the future.
Weedmaps News spoke with leaders of the cannabis-infused beer world as well as an Advanced Cicerone® to get the inside scoop on the current state of the weed beer industry, where it is headed, and what it brings to the larger cannabis space.
Weed beer was “definitely inevitable,” according to Kevin Barnes, the Executive Vice President of Brewing Operations and the man behind pioneer brand Two Roots. Barnes has been a professional brewer for 10 years and “has heard about brewers wanting to use cannabis in their beers since day one.”
He notes that “public opinion [of cannabis] is rapidly shifting.” While it’s tempting to view cannabis-infused beverages as a trend, Barnes points out that the influx of new products is likely the tip of the iceberg of a profitable emerging category with staying power. In addition to major investment from the world of big alcohol, cannabis-infused beverages as a category is headlining in the world of finance.
What is weed beer?
Before we dig into what “weed beer” is, let’s mention what it’s not. So-called canna-beers are not typical beers because they don’t contain any alcohol. Current laws prohibit the mixing of any cannabis product with alcoholic beverages; the category is made up of beer-like beverages that are designed to taste and be consumed like beer, but swap the alcohol for cannabinoids like CBD and/or THC.
So how do these products that taste like beer, look like beer, and are packaged and marketed like beer come to be? The process is fraught with logistical, legal, and brewing challenges.
Most products that fall under the weed beer umbrella are dealcoholized beers, though there are products like HiFi Hops, which are decidedly not branding themselves as beer, but rather serve as a bridge between the infused water and beer worlds. For most, the first production hurdle is brewing a beer that is suited for dealcoholization: “You can’t just make normal beer, you really have to brew differently ” says Barnes, noting the challenge of crafting a beer that retains character without alcohol, which is one of the main carriers of body and flavor.
Once a quality dealcoholized beer recipe is set, it’s time to infuse. The current industry standard is to use a flavorless and colorless THC and/or CBD isolate in liquid form. The compounds are generally nano-emulsified, which breaks down the particles small enough to be water-soluble and relatively stable once mixed with the beer. The nano-emulsification also makes the cannabinoids more bioavailable, which is a fancy way of saying the effects come on faster and feel stronger.
This technology is a big deal, and it is key in creating beverages that offer mood-enhancing effects in a similar time frame as a typical alcoholic beverage.
“[Our beverages] mimic the bell curve of alcohol with a fast onset of 10-15 minutes, and after about an hour and a half it dissipates … from a consumption perspective, we don’t have to ask people to change, we’ve adjusted the product to fit natural behavior,” explained Maikel Van de Mortel, Executive Vice President of Marketing for Cannabiniers, which handles all Lighthouse cannabis products.
Weed beer is currently exhaustive to make
Quick onset technology is a game changer, no doubt about it, but the research and development process presents its own headaches. A major roadblock is the number of facilities required for the basics of production. “We can’t process or handle any cannabis products in our brewing facility … we have to make the non-alc beer here and then send it to the cannabis facility,” explains Barnes.
Imagine tasting and fine-tuning without letting a drop of alcohol into the cannabis facility or a drop of cannabis into the brewery. To make matters even more complicated, the current lack of federal oversight means that each state operates independently: “Our beers are being made and sold in Nevada as well as California, so we have to have a separate facility for cannabis extraction, infusion, and packaging in every state,” Barnes said.
Once production is complete, there is the matter of navigating murky legal waters. Aside from not being allowed to call any cannabis product ‘beer,’ there are very limited outlets to find and consume the product. There are a few municipalities that allow onsite consumption, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Las Vegas. While still few and far between, consumption lounges, like the Original Cannabis Cafe, are starting to pop up in these municipalities.
From a retail point of view, THC beverages can only be purchased at licensed dispensaries. While CBD products are stuck in a gray area, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as Van de Mortel points out: “Conventional retail for CBD only products will open soon … we’re getting clarification from the FDA in January 2020.”
Could weed be the future of drinking?
As the laws continue to evolve, canna-beer, as part of the larger cannabis-infused beverage category, presents unique opportunities for seasoned and new users alike. More than just another way to get high, THC-infused beers offer a consistent, predictable, and responsible way to engage with cannabis.
One benefit is the intuitive serving size, one beer equals one dose. Low doses, roughly 5 milligrams of cannabinoids per beer, combined with a quick onset, allow consumers to self manage their experience and bypass the unpleasant consequence of accidentally consuming too much only to realize it two hours later. Van de Mortel elaborates: “ . not everyone who walks into a dispensary knows how to self regulate . edibles with 100 milligrams of THC can go wrong really quickly [among] the canna-curious … lower dose products cater to a much broader audience.”
In addition to offering intuitive low dose servings, weed beer merges nicely with the current overall trends in cannabis. According to the research of BDS Analytics, the top two cannabis trends for 2019 are social consumption and infused beverages.
Angela Steil, Advanced Cicerone® and owner of the forthcoming 721 Bar in Harlem, New York, recognizes consumer trends and natural points of connection, which is why she projects that “beer will be one of the biggest industries driving [cannabis] laws and consumption forward.”
As a passionate beer lover, educator, and consumer herself, Steil admits to being “excited to have a non-alcoholic but THC/CBD based beverage option” as part of the larger non-alcoholic trend that she sees growing throughout her industry. “People are switching over and changing their mind about alcohol consumption … it’s natural to go over to cannabis for a mind-body effect from a delicious beverage.”
Beer has the upper hand over other beverages from a flavor perspective because of the close relationship between hops and marijuana: “Especially considering the West Coast IPA and now New England IPA trend, the herbaceous taste is already familiar to beer consumers.” In addition to being a “no-brainer” from a flavor perspective, Steil points out that the “laid-back attitude of the beer industry” as an inclusive everyman drink culture, is well suited to cannabis.
Projections look good for the world of cannabis-infused beer, but only time will tell. Drinking culture is so old and these products are so new that there will likely be plenty of trial and error before leveling out. Will infused beers be a significant part of national cannabis consumption? To what degree will they replace alcoholic beverages? While these questions can only be answered in time, as Steil declares, one thing is already clear: “weed beer is not a trend, it’s here to stay.”
3 cannabis-infused beer brands to try
Two Roots offers five styles of non-alcoholic beer, each with 5 milligrams of THC per can, available across California and Nevada. Styles include Enough Said, an easy-drinking brew; New West, a hop-forward option; Tropical Infamy, made in the style of a fruit-forward Bavarian wheat beer; RCG, a rich and creamy option for lovers of port and stout; and finally Sonder, a smoothe blonde beer.
High Style Brewing
High Style’s non-alcoholic beer is made in San Diego, California, and is currently available in 55 outlets across the state. Each bottle contains 10 milligrams of THC and comes in 3 styles: the flagship Pale Haze which is an unflavored ale, as well as Grapefruit Haze, and Blood Orange Haze.
Ceria has two non-alcoholic beers made in and sold in Colorado with plans to expand into California. Grainwave is a Belgian style white beer with 5 milligrams of THC. Indiewave is a West Coast IPA with 10 milligrams of THC and 10 milligrams of CBD
Feature image courtesy of Two Roots Brewing Co.
Cannabis-infused beers, or "weed beers," are generating interest from drinkers looking to ditch alcohol. Here is everything you to know about weed beers.
Groundbreaking Beer Made With Actual Cannabis Will Most Assuredly Get You High
Patent-pending process to bring a real cannabis beer to life is a new take on traditional brewing.
The face of beer has changed dramatically over the last couple decades. First, they took standard ales and pumped them full of hops. Then, they started using wild yeast and bacteria to turn them sour. Now, some forward-thinking craft beer entrepreneurs are doing away with the grain entirely, in favor of — would you believe it? — cannabis. That’s right drinking cannabis is a thing now. Some innovations are definitely exciting.
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To the homebrewers out there scratching their heads dubiously at the concept (“wait, does this mean cannabis-INFUSED?”), have no doubt that what’s to come is actual cannabis beer. As in, the barley and grains have been swapped for the iconic weed. It’ will be interesting to see if this convinces regular smokers of cannabis to swap their bongs for a pint of cannabis-based beer!
The science behind this seemingly impossible beverage is patent-pending and being kept under relatively-tight wraps, but Dooma Wendschuh, CEO and Founder of Province Brands, makers of this cannabis brew, promises that it’s the real deal when it comes to beer.
“We met with some of the top master brewers in the world and told them ‘we want to make a beer from the cannabis plant’ and we got laughed out of the room in a lot of cases,” he explains. “Folks would say to us ‘that’s impossible, beer is made from barley. You need the carbohydrates in the grains to mash into sugars and the sugars are fermented into alcohol. And cannabis doesn’t have any carbohydrates, so how you gonna do it? Seems like it’s impossible.”
Luckily, it was possible as it turned out, with the help of some custom equipment and a little engineering ingenuity. Wendschuh couldn’t get into the specifics (the patent is pending, after all) but noted the brewing process was very similar to that of traditional beer.
And to answer questions, yes, Wendschuh assured, this beer will get you high. Instead of a mild dose of alcohol (like a beer) it will contain a minor dose of THC which will give drinkers a pleasant and relatively short buzz. It’s not clear what strains of cannabis will be used, but there are more and more strains being grown that have big flavours (like this lemon diesel strain, for example) so we expect this beer to taste pretty good!
Actual tasting from August of 2017 in Toronto.
Right now, Province Brands is abiding by the current Canadian law prohibiting marijuana sale. But that’s not stopping them from introducing consumers to the flavor of their product. They’re launching with an Imperial Pilsner brewed with hemp, that will contain alcohol instead of the psychoactive ingredients of their beers to come. Whilst the laws are progressively moving towards recreational use being legalized across North America, it is important that local laws are respected. If you require medicinal marijuana then it would be wise to visit one of the licensed medical marijuana doctors in Kansas City, MO should you live in the state.
This pilot brew will showcase the flavor and quality of the beer, without getting you stoned. But it will pave the way for consumers intrigued by the concept.
Wendschuh notes that there are established beer brands that use marijuana and hemp as a flavor agent, and will offer a familiar taste reference point with consumers. Some you might be familiar with include the recently-launched Lagunitas IPA that’s brewed with cannabis, and Canada’s first hemp flavored beer, Buzz.
“The flavor is a lot like the flavor you get from those beers, but our beers are made differently,” Wendschuh says. “There’s a lot less sweetness, a rich nutty flavor, they are more savory, a little more sophisticated and adult, and a bit on the dry side.”
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One major inspiration for this unique canna-beer was health. With the success of non-alcoholic beer brewed by the likes of Budweiser, it’s becoming clear that consumers are turning to alcohol-free alternatives to sip on.
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But where boozeless beverages might taste fine, they won’t do much for full body relaxation. That’s where Province Brands is upping the ante.
As to the question of making a canna-beer that contains alcohol in addition to THC for a double-whammy, Wendschuh strongly demurred.
“There’s nothing wrong with alcohol, I like to drink, but we think we can create something that has fewer of the drawbacks than alcohol has,” Wendschuh explains. “[Our upcoming Cannabis beers are] squarely designed to target craft beer consumers and pull them away from alcohol products to a safer, healthier alternative.”
An obstacle that Province Brands may face is a reluctant adoption by a notoriously purist craft beer crowd. Given that, by some measures of purity, beverages brewed with cannabis couldn’t legally called beer, plunging into the discerning craft beer demographic could be an uphill battle.
That said, Wendschuh remains confident their canna-beer is created so closely in the spirit of traditional brews, it will have appeal in the craft community.
“We’re really making a beer that has three ingredients, cannabis, water and hops,” Wendschuh says. “The simplicity of that is just beautiful and it’s a great way to think of a new brewing tradition.”
So when can you try a cannabis beer from Province Brands? As for their pilot Imperial Pilsner, you can expect to see on shelves this year or early next year. The cannabis products — well, legalization was originally promised for July in Canada. But as with so many government initiatives it may move slower than expected.
In the meantime, both beer imbibers and cannabis consumers will have to make do with what’s on hand — and manage their “high” expectations.
Groundbreaking Beer Made With Actual Cannabis Will Most Assuredly Get You High Patent-pending process to bring a real cannabis beer to life is a new take on traditional brewing. The face of